A Braided Pneumatic Actuator is a device developed in the 1950′s by J.L. McKibben. In recent years, robotics engineers have begun to rediscover these fascinating devices, and use them as actuators for their robots. These actuators exhibit non-linear force-length properties similar to skeletal muscle, and have a very high strength-to-weight ratio. In this project, emphasis was placed on understanding the actuator properties so that this knowledge could be used in simulation and control of legged robots. Static and dynamic mathematical models were developed for the actuators, and verified through testing and simulation. A four-degree of freedom robotic leg was designed, constructed, and controlled. The leg provided stable, sensible forward walking for the robot, and was capable of operating 94% passively. Though these actuators have a few limitations, their muscle-like properties including high strength-to-weight ratio, passive characteristics, and self-limiting force properties make them ideal for legged robots.
The University of Washington Biorobotics Lab has a good paper if you want to read more about the construction of these actuators.
Here is a labeled photograph of the completed leg:
This is the thesis that describes the work done to create and move this robot:
Design and Control of a Robotic Leg With Braided Pneumatic Actuators(2.4 Mb)